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AASHTO Journal

Transportation Conference Committee Reaches Deal on Transportation Bill

The House and Senate today passed a new two-year $105 billion surface transportation reauthorization bill, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21). The measure, H.R. 4348, passed the House 373-52. The Senate passed the bill 74-19.

"We commend the leadership of House Speaker Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Reid for encouraging agreement on a bipartisan bill that will bring us 27 months of much needed funding certainty and program stability," said Kirk Steudle, Michigan Department of Transportation director and AASHTO president.

"This agreement is a real credit to Senators Boxer, Baucus, Inhofe, Vitter, Rockefeller, Hutchison, Johnson, and Shelby, and their counterparts in the House -- Representatives Mica, Rahall, Camp, and Levin -- who fought hard on behalf of our nation's transportation system," said John Horsley, AASHTO executive director. "These leaders showed real courage in moving the process forward to reach agreement when most people thought it was impossible to get there."

With today's votes, MAP-21 reauthorizes the federal-aid highway, highway safety, and transit programs which were last authorized by the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) passed in 2005. State transportation departments have been operating on nine short-term extensions of the surface transportation authorization since SAFETEA-LU expired September 30, 2009.

"Action taken by the House and Senate to approve a multiyear surface transportation bill ensures that the nation's highway and transit programs will continue uninterrupted," said Horsley. "Without this legislation, drastic cutbacks would have been necessary due to a revenue shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund. There are many things to like in this bill, including providing funding for surface transportation programs at current levels and extending user fees and the Highway Trust Fund through Fiscal Year 2016. We also are pleased that the legislation includes needed reforms to stretch taxpayer dollars with expanded innovative finance, improved efficiency with program consolidation, streamlined project delivery, and improved accountability with performance measures."

Leaders of the Senate Environment and Public Works and House Transportation and Infrastructure committees both issued statements Wednesday announcing they had reach agreement on a Transportation Conference Committee report. The conference report was filed and posted by the House Rules Committee late Thursday evening, setting the stage for the House to waive its three day review rule and pass the report before the current extension expired at midnight on Saturday. The Senate took up the bill, H.R. 4348, Friday afternoon.

"I am so glad that House Republicans met Democrats halfway, as Senate Republicans did a month ago," EPW Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said (full statement is available at bit.ly/boxertranpsbill). "The bill is funded at current levels, and it will protect and create three million jobs. This job creation is the critical focus of Democrats because we know that the unemployment rate in construction is at an unacceptable level."

House T&I Chairman John Mica (R-Fl.) also referenced the bill's ability to put people back to work.

"This is the jobs bill for the 112th Congress," he said (full statement available at bit.ly/micatranspbill). "The unprecedented reforms in this legislation -- cutting red tape, truly making projects 'shovel ready,' shrinking the size of the federal bureaucracy, attracting more private sector participation, and giving states more flexibility to address their critical priorities -- will ensure that we more effectively move forward with major highway and bridge improvements and put Americans back to work."

The Senate passed MAP-21 in mid-March. The House passed its own bill in mid-April -- H.R. 4348, a 90-day extension of SAFETEA-LU that included Keystone Pipeline provisions. Conferees began meeting in early May.

The conference committee report retains current funding levels through the end of fiscal year 2014, amounting to $105 billion for the term of the bill. Provisions on the Keystone XL pipeline and coal ash were not included in the final conference report. Also not included were Senate proposals included in MAP-21 that expanded the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

The text of the 599-page bill is available at bit.ly/transpobillHR4348. A bill summary/joint explanatory statement from those on the Transportation Conference Committee is available at bit.ly/transpojointremarks.

6/29/2012
Questions regarding this article may be directed to editor@aashtojournal.org.